Definition of pilot in English:



  • 1A person who operates the flying controls of an aircraft.

    ‘a strike by local airline pilots’
    [as modifier] ‘the crash had been due to pilot error’
    • ‘He compared the procedure to that followed by an airline pilot preparing an aircraft for landing.’
    • ‘These include, first, the status of Air Crews Control pilots and Flight Attendants working for Impulse.’
    • ‘At its most basic, those tools are instructor pilots, other experienced pilots, and aircraft sorties.’
    • ‘The vectoring controls can be operated manually by the pilot or automatically by the flight control system.’
    • ‘Both pilots have been flying aircraft for over 15 years, and neither had ever seen anything like this.’
    • ‘Jann has posted a collection of conversations between airline pilots and airport control towers.’
    • ‘The following is an account of an exchange between airline pilots and a control tower.’
    • ‘This will increase its operational effectiveness and reduce potential risks to the aircraft and pilots.’
    • ‘See and avoid is one of the most basic responsibilities of a pilot operating an aircraft.’
    • ‘A major factor in this regard was the lack of any previous experience on the part of the pilots in flying jet aircraft.’
    • ‘In turn, the hanging undercarriage made it even more difficult for the pilot to control the aircraft.’
    • ‘As outlined, the cost and length of training for UAV operators are substantially less than they are for pilots of manned aircraft.’
    • ‘The school opened in January 2002 for C - 141 pilots, loadmasters and flight engineers.’
    • ‘In addition to its important role as a simulator for pilots, model aircraft flying is staking a claim to serious sports status.’
    • ‘During that year, the pilot of an aircraft flying over the ice cap spotted a downed aircraft.’
    • ‘Ted and Brett are both west coastbased airline pilots as well as aviation enthusiasts.’
    • ‘The reason given for this crash was that the aircraft flew into the wake of another aircraft, and the pilot lost control of it.’
    • ‘The new aircraft will also allow pilots to increase their flying hours from 150 to 200 because of the aircraft's higher operating ceiling.’
    • ‘Air Combat Command uses the aircraft as a companion trainer to provide pilots additional flying time at a lower cost.’
    • ‘Other members of the wing also approached the group commander about the pilot's inappropriate flying.’
    airman, airwoman, flyer, aeronaut
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    1. 1.1A person with expert local knowledge qualified to take charge of a ship entering or leaving a harbour.
      • ‘As a result data (tides, water depths and weather) to help pilots navigate through the harbour and by shipping companies became inaccessible.’
      • ‘The additional flying is to maintain and hone the night flying skills of our ship's pilots and aircrew.’
      • ‘Also, while you walk around your ship, other pilots will give you some short comments, for example ‘Way to go ace’.’
      • ‘I believe I was the last man to leave the ship before the pilot.’
      • ‘The pilot of this ship was an old friend Mac was all too obviously happy to see.’
      • ‘She had gotten up for a moment to check on the pilot when the ship had started to uncontrollably lurch.’
      • ‘Ships entering Sligo through Sligo Bay were guided into port by sea pilots who guided them to Pool Doy were river pilots brought the ship into the quays.’
      • ‘He had more pressing problems - where were the pilots and their ships?’
      • ‘The pilot announced as the ship began dodging an unseen enemy.’
      • ‘Not only did it boost their speed, but the glow of the engines also momentarily blinded the pilot of the other ship.’
      • ‘Built of English oak and Cornish elm, they are traditionally designed and locally built rowing boats originally used to deliver pilots to incoming merchant ships.’
      • ‘So, the pilot of an interceptor ship will usually not start a close combat - he should destroy the target with rockets by taking the first shot.’
      • ‘The squirrel fem that was the command pilot of the second ship did not like this in the least.’
      • ‘I have scanned your ship, and it is outfitted with very qualified pilots as well as fairly good shields and torpedo cannons.’
      • ‘We just need the harbour pilot now, to help Mudder Pratt steer de ship of state.’
      • ‘The word Cybernetics comes from the Greek word kybernotos which means a governor - helmsman, actually, the kybernotos was the pilot of a ship.’
      • ‘Eusi noted that the pilot had shut his ship almost completely down.’
      • ‘He was also a ship's pilot, bringing sailing ships in and out of Fenit.’
      • ‘After missing two tides because there were no pilots available the coaster Fast Will was allowed to sail for the Trent on Sunday unpiloted, leading another ship also without a pilot.’
      • ‘The four pilots strapped into their ships, and waited for the signal to launch.’
      navigator, helmsman, guide, steersman, coxswain
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    2. 1.2A navigational handbook for use at sea.
    3. 1.3informal A jockey.
      ‘many expected him to get the job as Desert Orchid's pilot’
      • ‘The Downptarick pilot won the Grand National aboard Lord Gyllene in 1997 and has also finished second in two Cheltenham Gold Cup races.’
      • ‘The ten stones turf pilot is the hottest jockey on the island and centre-frame in the up-coming Cheltenham picture.’
      • ‘She will get a three-pound break in the weights for the Hollywood Turf Cup and will be ridden by regular pilot Alex Solis.’
      • ‘Dettori pilots Falbrav for final workout for Hong Kong Cup’
      • ‘Regular pilot Richard Migliore will be aboard Wheelaway, who also is rated at 5-to - 1.’
      • ‘At that stage, Saturday's pilot Peter Buchanan was being lined up for April, but he now looks set to be on Strong Resolve, with Carrie re-applying for her riding licence.’
      • ‘I've been her pilot all year, and she's never been like this before.’
    4. 1.4archaic A guide or leader.
  • 2A television or radio programme made to test audience reaction with a view to the production of a series.

    ‘he returns to our TV screens in a pilot for a Channel 4 sitcom’
    • ‘They were responsible for over twenty series ideas that were made into pilots and sold for series production.’
    • ‘Egypt is part of the BBC's TV Plus pilots, offering audiences a new way of engaging with BBC TV programmes to enhance their viewing experience.’
    • ‘This looked like a pilot for a series, but none materialised - at least, not under this title.’
    • ‘Needless to say, I was enthralled to view the pilot of the new series whilst I slumbered last night.’
    • ‘The film was initially made as a pilot for a television series, which helps explain why the story is so convoluted.’
    • ‘The Manchester Comedy Unit will also announce new pilot schemes for television and radio.’
    • ‘Three years after this BBC show, Una McLean starred in a sitcom pilot, Did You See Una?’
    • ‘I had once made a TV pilot of the radio programme with him and that had been an enjoyable experience, discussing simple issues like sex and politics with no mention of my childhood.’
    • ‘A flat-share sitcom that aired as a pilot in Comedy Playhouse and then graduated to a full series.’
    • ‘It's more hugely entertaining than any film with something to say has any right to be, and stylistically, it belies its roots as a television series pilot.’
    • ‘Mulholland Drive originated as a pilot for an ABC television series.’
    • ‘And if it was a pilot, no series has followed - possibly because all the comedic eggs were put into this one, only fairly amusing basket.’
    • ‘Radio Scotland's comedy writing initiative has produced pilots of three brand new sitcoms.’
    • ‘BBC News has announced that Rod Liddle is moving on from editing the Today programme to work on a pilot for a new programme about politics for BBC TWO.’
    • ‘Mulholland Drive was originally produced as a pilot for a television series, but it was abandoned because ABC found the plot too obscure.’
    • ‘Because the picture was originally intended as a pilot for cable television, the story lines do not blend together or evolve in a satisfying way.’
    • ‘The trio has also submitted a pilot to television stations.’
    • ‘This pilot led to a full radio series, which quickly won a prestigious Sony Award.’
    • ‘I can't imagine there was much clamor for failed television pilots from the buying public.’
    • ‘Jim will also be concentrating his time on developing a pilot for a family sitcom for BBC ONE with Carla Lane and on new ideas for a late night series for the channel.’
    trial episode, pilot episode, pilot programme
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  • 3Telecommunications
    [often as modifier] An unmodulated reference signal transmitted with another signal for the purposes of control or synchronization.

    • ‘The integration time is solved by having two signal components from each satellite, one with data, but one without, known as the pilot signal.’
    • ‘While the tracking sensitivity has been greatly enhanced by having a pilot signal, the extremely long code chosen has made it impractical to use it for acquisition.’
    • ‘In an embodiment of the invention, a particular mobile station transmits a pilot strength measurement message to the base station.’
    • ‘The switch position of each antenna element is programmed for optimum reception during, for example, an idle mode which receives a pilot signal.’
    • ‘Data conversion method and apparatus imbedding pilot signal into converted data and reducing error propagation between datawords’
  • 4

    another term for cowcatcher
    • ‘Today, people in the railroad industry frown upon the term "cow catcher," but the pilot is still in use.’
    • ‘Since diesel locomotives feature front cabs carrying crew, the pilot must be constructed to prevent the cab from being struck by objects deflected from the road.’


  • [attributive] Done as an experiment or test before being introduced more widely.

    ‘a pilot scheme for training workers’
    • ‘This experience makes a pilot scheme unnecessary.’
    • ‘The glitch was discovered by Lothian and Borders Police in 2002 during pilot tests of tagging devices before they were rolled out across Scotland.’
    • ‘The changes, if adopted by government, will be implemented over the next 10 years with a four-year pilot scheme to test the diploma.’
    • ‘Askham Grange wants to build on its progressive reputation by introducing a pilot scheme that would keep mothers and children together until school age.’
    • ‘This month the hospital began trialling a pilot scheme to give older patients a quiet window in the afternoons when they can eat their evening meal without interruption.’
    • ‘He claimed pilot tests on pay-by-use schemes had shown that people would enjoy lower refuse charges when the system went nationwide in 2005.’
    • ‘York City chairman Steve Beck and his fellow heads of Third Division clubs were today discussing plans for the introduction of a pilot salary cap scheme for next season.’
    • ‘This year they announced a big, controversial change to rubbish collection and recycling across the city without any consultation or pilot scheme to test it out.’
    • ‘The idea is that we will disseminate the results to all businesses at a launch event in March by which time we will have worked with service providers and will have tested a pilot scheme.’
    • ‘The pilot scheme was introduced in Great Ayton after high numbers of bogus callers and high pressure salesmen were seen there, and is backed by Hambleton Community Safety Partnership.’
    • ‘The service introduced on a pilot basis in Guntur and Tenali will be extended to all towns.’
    • ‘It is thought likely that the use of cameras across the country will be increased as a result of the experimental pilot scheme, conducted in eight areas of the UK.’
    • ‘York Hospital is part of a nationwide pilot scheme exploring ways to implement the Matron's Charter - a national action plan for cleaner hospitals.’
    • ‘The government has launched an HK $85 million pilot scheme to test the effectiveness of smaller classes in 40 primary schools.’
    • ‘The present research was implemented as a pilot study to test feasibility and examine preliminary evidence of program effectiveness.’
    • ‘The survey was tested in a pilot study using a convenience sample of laboratory managers known to the researchers.’
    • ‘Bexley has been chosen by the Home Office for a two-year pilot scheme which could change the face of policing.’
    • ‘That has been the experience of the pilot sites, of duty prosecutors in stations, that the quality of the cases improves, and that those cases that start will finish in the way that they should.’
    • ‘At a meeting of the children and young people's scrutiny committee yesterday councillors again recommended that the proposals to close the schools be delayed so pilot studies can be evaluated.’
    • ‘These two pilot studies tested new strategies in reperfusion for MI.’
    experimental, exploratory, trial, test, sample, model, tentative, speculative, preliminary
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  • 1Be the pilot of (an aircraft or ship)

    ‘he piloted the helicopter from Paris to Deauville’
    • ‘The second reason was that Sali held a civil aviation certificate which enabled him to pilot any aircraft out of the country.’
    • ‘Merlin didn't think twice about her ability to pilot the ship and turned his attention to a navigational scanner.’
    • ‘The ship's assistant captain, who was piloting the boat, fled the scene and attempted suicide at his home in Staten Island.’
    • ‘Ellis and Morscheck were piloting the aeroplanes through a manoeuvre in which one aircraft rejoins the other five while flying in a formation barrel roll on January 21.’
    • ‘The company has 80 employees engaged in everything from building the gondolas to piloting the ships, and four $5 million blimps in inventory.’
    • ‘Disarmed and piloting a disarmed ship, the crew of the Excelsior is forced to send out a squadron of the unfamiliar shuttlecraft that now occupy their hangar bay.’
    • ‘The psychology teacher from Poynton, who has used a wheelchair for almost 20 years after being paralysed in a car crash, has previously parachuted, piloted a light aircraft and plays wheelchair rugby.’
    • ‘As Mark piloted the ship out of the Hangar bay, all hands taking cover in case the problem wasn't fixed, Tanj headed back to the engine spaces to see how her end was holding up.’
    • ‘One of them taught their attendants how to be space police; the other taught their attendants how to pilot ships and fly.’
    • ‘Afterward, Dave and Jenna, who had turned out to be an excellent pilot herself, gave their friends a quick tutorial on piloting an aircraft.’
    • ‘One of Mrs Wilson's biggest regrets was never being able to pilot an aircraft.’
    • ‘I piloted the ship in, so now I have to pilot it out again and I am soon exiting the station taking in the visual delight of the sector once more.’
    • ‘The ship was piloted by a Captain John Rouse, a man with fifteen years experience in cargo hauling and a minor in sales, and his daughter Lily.’
    • ‘Billy piloted the ship forward towards the pirates, with his own grappler arms extended.’
    • ‘‘I haven't forgotten,’ Voelker said, piloting the ship into the shuttle bay and beginning the landing cycle.’
    • ‘At times you really believe you are piloting your ship and are about to dock with a space station.’
    • ‘In an astounding effort, humans piloting ultralight aircraft taught a novice flock how to migrate from Florida to Wisconsin.’
    • ‘In 1979 he successfully piloted the same helicopter on an open sea rescue mission in gale force winds, for which he was awarded the Air Force Cross for his skill and bravery.’
    • ‘What about those of us who are not piloting oil tankers or fighting forest fires, but who wake up groggy after a late night on the town?’
    • ‘A Japanese person piloting an airplane today could easily fly it into a ship, if he were willing to die; the difference today is that no one wants to die for the cause of Japanese imperialism.’
    fly, be at the controls of, control, handle, manoeuvre, drive, operate, steer, regulate, monitor, direct, captain
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    1. 1.1[with object and adverbial of direction]Guide or steer.
      ‘Melissa piloted her through the booking hall’
      • ‘Despite this Morrison piloted the Bill successfully through Parliament and it became the Road Traffic Act, 1930.’
      • ‘A former leader of Aberdeen City Council, Sewel was offered a seat in the Lords in 1995 specifically to pilot the devolution bill through Parliament.’
      • ‘Falconer, who is preparing to pilot his constitutional reform bill through parliament, has committed himself to deciding on a site by the summer.’
      • ‘He is helping to pilot a Bill through Parliament calling for an international treaty on the arms trade to be agreed by 2006.’
      • ‘Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael, who piloted the recent legislation to ban fox hunting through Parliament, had been due to address the conference, but failed to attend.’
      • ‘Jeremie added as he piloted the bill to eventual passage in the Lower House.’
      • ‘If approved, they would be piloted through Parliament by finance minister Tom McCabe, although he will face opposition from Labour's Liberal Democrat coalition partners, who favour a local income tax.’
      • ‘But the great majority of the amendments accepted are those from the minister who is piloting the bill through the House.’
      • ‘O'Neal successfully piloted a bill through the Legislative Council last Thursday that prohibits anyone from using a name other than the original name of an area in any official capacity.’
      • ‘Rumbles will be piloting a bill through the Scottish Parliament to set up the Scottish equivalent of the Westminster sleaze watchdog and says Filkin would be ideal for the job.’
      • ‘Minister of State Michael Ahern, who is piloting the bill through the Oireachtas, is believed to be considering raising it to e500,000-a move that would remove hundreds of companies from the net.’
      • ‘Law Minister Moudud Ahmed piloted through parliament the bill for faster trials for cases of serious crimes involving murder, rape, illegal arms and explosives, and narcotics.’
      • ‘They fell to discussing Sedgemore's multitudinous achievements, his thunderous oratory, the life-changing bills he piloted through the Commons.’
      navigate, guide, steer, direct, sail, usher, shepherd, show the way to, lead, conduct, escort, convoy
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  • 2Test (a scheme, project, etc.) before introducing it more widely.

    ‘one-day workshops for part-time staff were piloted in June’
    • ‘One force which piloted the scheme, the West Midlands, used a form which required 77 pieces of information to be entered by officers about each stop. search news’
    • ‘It is an idea based on work done by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organisations in the United States, who have given permission for their materials to be adapted and piloted in North Bradford.’
    • ‘Business Link has piloted a scheme in the Bradford Trident area where entrepreneurs can get loans for up to £5,000 even if they are turned away by the major banks.’
    • ‘When it was first brought in by the then Home Secretary, and now Leader of the Opposition, Michael Howard, a dozen years ago, it was not unreasonably piloted in the crime black spots, namely the inner cities.’
    • ‘The council plans to pilot the scheme from March 1, in Eggborough, Whitley, Camblesforth and Carlton.’
    • ‘Our experience in Enfield where the scheme was piloted was that residents would come up and express their appreciation.’
    • ‘It is also piloting schemes such as breakfast clubs, tuck shops and vending machines with healthy food and bottled water rather than chocolate and crisps.’
    • ‘Police in Leigh, Tyldesley and Atherton are piloting a scheme in response to a continuing number of complaints about off-road bikers.’
    • ‘Given the amount of concern and anger which your proposals have generated, why have you refused to pilot the scheme in one area of the city first?’
    • ‘It is described as ‘venture philanthropy’, providing cash to pilot schemes that will be passed over to the Scottish Executive as proven concepts.’
    • ‘The West Yorkshire Volume Crime Unit, one of only seven being piloted across the country, will use the same modus operandi as is currently in place for tackling murder and other ‘serious’ crimes.’
    • ‘With the enthusiastic backing of the Tanzanian Ministry of Health, the project team picked two districts in which to pilot the scheme.’
    • ‘In a bid to take credit to the customer's door step, HDFC Bank is setting up loan shops through its direct selling agents and has piloted the project in Chennai.’
    • ‘Meanwhile Defra is urging farmers to sign up to a scheme piloting a gamma interferon test, which could reduce the time herds are under restriction.’
    • ‘Now we are piloting a project to provide regular weekly music sessions for children with learning difficulties.’
    • ‘Ms Cooper said that so-called e-voting, piloted in Sheffield involving voting by mobile phone text-message or over the Internet, had not produced the same increase in turn-out as postal voting.’
    • ‘Now the Council is considering submitting a bid for the city to become one of two national pilots pioneering projects to keep the streets gum free.’
    • ‘The council is also planning to pilot a scheme in the city's long-stay car parks which will allow users to pay by credit card and avoid having to search for the right change.’
    • ‘Thirty schools will be involved in the scheme, 13 in Lancashire, with 24 piloting the scheme and six acting as a control test.’
    • ‘An important part of piloting the coding scheme will be testing for consistency between coders and, if time permits, intra-coder reliability.’
    test, trial, put to the test, try out, carry out trials on, experiment with, assess, investigate, examine, appraise, evaluate, check out
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Early 16th century (denoting a person who steers a ship): from French pilote, from medieval Latin pilotus, an alteration of pedota, based on Greek pēdon oar, (plural) rudder.